Is Customer a King, CRM's Perspective


Devender P.S.
Research Associate
Icfai School of Marketing Studies

Ratan Tata says, I find it difficult to understand why all our managers and officers cannot be courteous at all times to all people. It seems to me that it is part of the Indian psyche to say, "I will treat important people with great courtesy, and I will treat everyone else, not with scorn, but as second-class citizens. I will show my superiority as an individual." I think this is really terrible.

The following case is completely against the above statement made by Ratan Tata. One day in the month of December Mr.X and his friend Mr.Y went  to deposit cash in one of the leading  Multi National commercial Bank, They entered the bank premises found one of their executives attending only selective customers which they felt that it is unfair treatment but still they approached him, enquired for pay-in-slip they got it and filled it, later joined the queue with other customers towards the teller counter to deposit the cash which took more than five minutes,  employee at the teller counter said "please collect the token for depositing the cash", They left the queue and  went to the token machine and opted for non customer with deposit of Rupees less than 50000 and they got the token with (NW72) number and they were waiting for their turn to come and  also observing the pattern of calling the customers,   customers who came after them were provided priority services, in first 10-12 minutes they came to a conclusion that first preference was given to the customers of the bank itself,  They immediately went to the token machine and opted for an another token as customer of the bank with deposit of Rupees less than 50000 and got the token with (CD81) number, their turn came just after  fourth  customer. They deposited the money and went to see the manager and put forth their complaint to him that the treatment what a non customer is getting is unreasonable and it is unfair on the part of the bank, the bank manager says that "this is a system where in non customers have been provided a separate counter and as an when their turn comes they will get the service and he was arguing with them  and goes on explaining the system, procedure etc., But Mr. X & Y were not at all impressed with his justification and his indifferent comments on the problem made them felt awful,  They thanked the Bank Manager and  left his cabin.

This is nothing but over automation where in there is no personal touch or humane touch in their approach. This conversation have created an permanent negative  image of the bank  in their minds that they would never ever be a customer of such Bank or its sister concern  and will never suggest any of their friends, relatives and even  strangers to be a customer of that bank. Does any customer wants to hear "what are the company's systems and procedures, rules & regulations etc.,   As a direct or indirect customer one would never want to hear all those justifications, they just want quick service. And there is every possibility that automation of customer service will be abandoned in the frontline and induction of specialists in customer services in front office will be a future trend now which can be observed in Aviation industry. As of now few financial institutions are serving their customers in depositing money, withdrawals, financial planning and tax planning etc., at customer's premises.

The following example explains how indirectly a customer can be a valuable asset for an organization.

Eg: An individual who spends merely an average dollar amount per month with a wireless phone provider might be considered even more valuable if the wireless company knew the customer's spouse was responsible for selecting the wireless service plan for 5,000 workers at a large company.

In general there is misconception in the peoples mind that Public sector undertakings are poor at customer service, to some extent this comment may be right, but not completely true. Here are two public sector banks 'C' Bank (CB) and 'O' Bank (OB). Whose services are far better than that of Indian Multi National Bank. In the month of December Mr. X have been to CB to collect a Demand Draft, it took him more than half an hour when he asked about the time delay in issuing Demand Draft the Assistant Manager was courteous enough to say that "Sir, please wait for few minutes it will be done" and he did it in next ten minutes. Though Mr. X felt bad about the delay in issuing the draft but Mr. X was pleased by the response of the Assistant Manger. This episode haven't made him much disappointed and have not provoked him to  erase completely CB from his mind; He still wanted to open an account because it is convenient for him to transact and staff's aptitude to handle customer services are better. And Mr. X still felt CB is bankable and there are better chances that he would suggest his friends to bank at CB.  Unfortunately on the same day itself a situation came, where in he was forced to take one more Demand Draft, he visited OB and enquired about  DD form at the counter, the employee just shown the place where they were, with a pathetic face, he took the form and his first question to the bank employee was "How much time does it take to issue a Demand Draft" there was no response from that bank employee who was sitting at the counter, suddenly there was a unexpected response which he heard from an unusual person, a middle  aged woman, who is just a Peon " Sir it will just take  five minutes"  He was convinced with her approach of attending him, he simply paid the amount at the teller and stood near the counter, rest she took over the Job. During this time, she was doing her job simultaneously interacting with him by posing soft questions like "Are you in a hurry Sir?"  Where do you come from? And other few similar questions.  By the time he answered her questions, the Demand Draft was ready. It took only seven minutes as compared to official time to make a DD is twenty minutes, though it was delayed by two minutes as promised, he was extremely satisfied with that Lady's service. He felt like it would have been better if she would have placed in front office as an executive instead of Peon.  Mr. X was extremely impressed by that lady's ability to engage customer at POP, One would definitely feel that the big companies and their big projects of Customer Relationship Management are of no use when there are no people to implement it all the levels. 

"According to a research by Reichheld and Sasser in the Harvard Business Review, 5% increase in customer retention can increase profitability by 35% in banking business, 50% in insurance and brokerage, and 125% in the consumer credit card market. Therefore, banks are now stressing on retaining customers and increasing market share".

The above situations like these are definitely creating an impression in the mind of customers that the corporate are denying legitimate right, needs and requirements.

Right from the days of customer centric market, this has been a regular activity that there are problems in customer care. In today's business environment there is no such industry, where customer care problems does not exist, even in the field of hospitality industry and service industry where in these industry's core business is custom care and the gap between the customers and their expectations and the service providers are increasing day by day. Today  in the Heighten world lot many new innovative products and services are being invented, but at the same time does any  company thought  that the product/service they offer are really needed by the customers or it is just because the products are being produced and are dumped into the market.

As people are very much aware that there are whole variety of products and services available in the market. But how many of them do really buy them even though they are of top quality, with marvelous features and at affordable prices.

Managers at middle level and supervisory levels of Indian corporate are not ready to treat customers equally. Unless the attitude of the managers changes towards customers problems pertaining to service will always exist.

How companies are responding to the bad experiences of using the product or service, what are the measures taken to avoid such experiences by the customers. Companies must ensure that customers get a new experience in purchasing and using their products and the impact of such purchase must be for a long time and which can be encased into new opportunities in the long run.  And differentiating from competitors, there by extending the change in purchasing experience. 

One would definitely  agree that, it is not always possible to give such a  kind of experience and  personal attention to each and every customer, but a company must make sure that customers should not leave the premises without satisfaction, and it is the  right of the customer to expect highest degree of respect,  let it be in the case of, hospitality, product availability, price, features or any other service  (E.g.:  Fiat is known for its best designed and engineered  cars in the world, but in India it could not capture the market as expected because, after sales  service levels were not up to the expectations of the customer, In order to boost sales in India,  Tata Motors and Fiat came together and announced a strategic relationship in passenger car segment for sales and marketing of Fiat cars through Tata dealerships. Through these dealerships display a wide selection of Fiat cars along with service and spares will be provided across Tata dealerships in India. Dealers will display the Fiat models along with Tata cars)

And most importantly the consumer complaining behavior process is unique; it has to deal with at most importance. And it distinguishes between negative word-of-mouth that occurs prior to seeking redress (or in lieu of seeking redress) and negative word-of-mouth that occurs after seeking redress.

There is an argument from the company's point of view i.e. how can any company spend time and manpower to attend a default and fraudulent customer and how treat them in the same manner as genuine and productive customer. Certainly they must be treated in a cordial way but one should not forget that they too deserve some importance in one way or the other.

There is every possibility that companies make mistakes but they must be such that they should be forgivable by  the customer, meaning even though companies make mistakes and try to rectify at the earliest and inform customers that the mistake which has been committed is been rectified and at most precautions have been taken, not to repeat the mistake.

Eg: What Cadbury has done by giving advertisements in the media, that it has rectified its mistakes and promised the customer that it won't repeat the same mistake again.

If a person is a regular customer of friendly neighborhood grocery shop or any other shop or bank, one will definitely know the painless punch of corporate businesses. They might misguide, mislead with the bashing effect, display, intense publicity, promotion and enchasing on personal intimacy. One should be aware that in one way or the other the suppliers are the customers and consumers of their own produce. The individuals who supply the produce at certain rate cannot afford to purchase the same product just because it is been packed and placed in fully decorated place. In this kind of situation, are you (customer) the beneficiary, just ask yourself.   Who do you think is the real beneficiary; if your answer is, neither the supplier nor the consumer, then one will get to know there is nothing, which is called as "Service".

Most Indians are habituated to have every thing fresh and never had tradition of packing food, let it be cooked or uncooked food, they prefer to have them in a natural way.

eg:  Fresh vegetables and fruits, do they really need packing, is there any need for branding products which are grown naturally or cultivated,   does anyone feel it is absolutely necessary?

The ever changing customer expectations are forcing the corporate to provide excellent service which is not possible to each an every company, organizations which provides service beyond customer expectations will survive the future rest will be out of business.  Organizations who wanted to survive are exploring, proliferating them selves by establishing new businesses in big way, there by depending on higher volumes. Some of them are collaboratively sharing their customer data there by offering vide variety of products to the same customer and leveraging customer base. These strategies adopted by the companies constantly put the pressure on the customer by offering vide range of product and there is fare chance that one might ignore such product offerings which are marketed by different departments, which are in a race generate revenue of their own. There is always a risk that customer may encounter different service levels of the different department of the same company.

For many years, Indian economy has been guarded from invasion of foreign companies in the form of Joint venture or fully owned or capitalistic form of economy.  Only some state owned companies which were in key areas like Defense, Telecom, Oil and other essential commodities. A set of few private owned companies who were into consumer items, engineering and manufacturing prospered during that period. Right from the days of closely guarded economy and till the days of economic liberalization in late 1990, the private owned companies in the seller's market were very successful. But the whole scenario chanced after post liberalization.

Ever since the golden days (customer centric market) i.e.  Since last thirty years to till date, marketers have been saying "Customer is the King" but, is the customer really a king? This is the main question which comes to everybody's mind and other questions such as how customers are treated? What quality of products do marketers offer? Are the products are user friendly? Etc., if these questions are answered completely with good outlook, a company can build up a brand which will be unique in any or combination of all the following attributes Price, Design, Quality, Usability, Service and shopping experience there by creating own and distinguished Brand. As an human being every individual expects to be treated with courtesy, similarly it is prime duty of marketers to treat customer with at most respect which he/she deserves. Here is a situation where CRM come in to picture, the essence of CRM should be understood as any activity which is completely customer centric and which enhances customer's expectations and satisfaction levels by giving him/her a wow effect with a human touch, at the same time maximize revenues from such services.

 "CRM would help organizations to serve the customers on an individual basis, to enjoy a long-term relationship and to get rid of barriers and distortions created by non-value adding intermediaries. He also says that  CRM would also help organizations to reduce marketing costs, target specific customers by focusing on their needs and to track the effectiveness of a given marketing action" by Dr Thapan K. Panda, IIM Indore

"CRM has power to help bankers quickly and directly improve customer satisfaction. CRM is an added dimension to ensure that what the customer expects is consistent with what the bank is prepared to deliver. One expert in bank CRM initiatives recently said that CRM is an approach that is less focused on providing the right services to the customer than attracting customers who are the right fit for what the bank has to offer. Further, the primary value of CRM is its potential as a customer retention tool. People are starting to measure CRM in terms of increased customer satisfaction rather than ROI" by Rob Keene, Director, Banking Practice.

In the vide spectrum of business, in after adopting and practicing latest technologies like CRM, people soft and other similar technologies. How do people interpret and understand the meaning of Customer Relationship Management, many experts expressed their view in different forms but there are few seminaries which revolve round the "Customer's needs, expectations and satisfaction"

In the field of consumer service management, many unexpected problem do arise and they pose challenges to be solved, a doubt may arise in the minds of individuals that adopting all these CRM technologies are of waste of money and time. May be not, as per the latest studies, customer service problems are marginalized to some extent but could not overcome them completely. We cannot imagine big businesses without such customer service technologies. Company's internal environment (employees) and external environment (Customer traffic, Business expansion etc.,) do influence on implementation of such technologies, Employees must be trained continuously to implement it and also change their mind set to adapt to such changing environment (customer centric).

 Unless people from top to bottom level in all departments focus and act on, what they actually wanted achieve in customer relationship management, interactive Customer Relationship Management software solutions will never deliver expected results.

It can be concluded that if any company intends to survive in today's competitive market it is essential that they must to treat customer as a king irrespective of using any technology. And giving at most importance to the direct or an indirect customer. Who knows a non productive customer of yours, may be a highly productive customer of your competitor.


Devender P.S.
Research Associate
Icfai School of Marketing Studies

Source: E-mail September 08, 2007


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